MARITIME EXPLORATIONS
THE BINH THUAN SHIPWRECK (c. 1608)

Click to see video.

Background

The Binh Thuan Wreck was found by fishermen 40 miles off the coast of Binh Thuan Province, southern Vietnam, in 40 m of water. Maritime Explorations excavated the wreck in conjunction with the Vietnam Salvage Corporation (Visal), the Binh Thuan People's Committee, and the Ministry of Culture. The hull was that of a Chinese junk, 24 m long, 7 m wide, and divided into 25 narrow compartments by transverse bulkheads. Archival evidence points to the junk of the unfortunate merchant, I Sin Ho, who was transporting a cargo of silk and Chinese goods from China to Johore for the Dutch when his ship sank off the south of Vietnam in 1608.

 

Spread

Visal's 64 m long supply boat, Dai Lanh, was used as the base for the excavation. A total of 50 personnel, including 20 divers, lived and worked on Dai Lanh for a month and a half. Diving was by means of KMB-18 masks and surface decompression on oxygen. Airlifts were used for removing the overburden. Desalination, cataloguing, and sorting were carried out onshore in a warehouse provided by the Binh Thuan People's Committee.

 

Recovered Cargo

The non-perishable cargo comprised cast-iron pans and Zhangzhou (Swatow) porcelain: blue-and-white, overglaze enamels, and a combination of the two. This is the first dedicated cargo of Zhangzhou porcelain to ever be found. There were also finer blue-and-white ceramics in a variety of shapes from other kilns. Non-ceramic artefacts were typical of a Chinese junk, and included locks, a scales set, chopsticks, and copper alloy bowls and dishes.

Binh Thuan Wreck Details and Photos

 

Cargo Disposition

The Vietnamese Government selected all unique ceramics and artefacts, and four fully representative sets to remain in Vietnam for ongoing study and museum display throughout the country. The remainder, all multi-duplicates, has been made available for sale after full documentation. A large part of the proceeds has been earmarked for the construction of a museum in Binh Thuan Province to house the wreck finds and other cultural objects. Christie's Australia conducted an auction in Melbourne on the 1st and 2nd of March 2004 in which all lots sold for a total of A$2 million.

Publications

1. A Cargo of Zhangzhou Porcelain off Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam, Flecker, M., Oriental Art Magazine, Vol. XLVIII, No.5, (2002/03).

2. The Binh Thuan Wreck, Christie's Australia, containing the full archaeological report by Dr. Flecker, Melbourne, 2004.

3. Treasures of the Binh Thuan Shipwreck, Flecker, M., Heritage Asia Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 4, June-August 2004.

Back to Main Page